The Coast News Group
Small Talk

Boys with tools a summer tradition

In the game of life, I give points for enthusiasm, and you can usually find a reasonable level of it emanating from my house.
Much of it is prompted by the college-age youngster who rooms with us — a chum of my son’s — and their mutual friends who regularly roll in and out. To my delight, this is an energetic, eclectic and vastly curious bunch.
Recently, even before my child returned from college, I was ecstatic to come home and find my driveway filled with five young men busy helping one of the gang replace the old, beaten seats in his new, used car. They had half the tools in the garage out, and extension cords running hither and thither. I got such a kick out of seeing them all huddled over the car, discussing, observing, laughing and working up a sweat to help out their friend.
I love to see them getting their hands dirty and working their creative minds. My dad enjoyed working on motors from the time he was a teenager and repaired all our cars as his hobby. Shoot, I scarcely paid a repair bill until I went off and got married, and he even did some after that. We claimed it was part of my dowry.
Now with car engines largely electronic, home repairs are tough, even if you have the aptitude. I was tickled to find that this hadn’t stopped these youngsters from making their cars their own. When I showed some interest in the project, I swiftly got a tour of another youngster’s convertible sports car. He popped open the hood and proudly showed me the supercharger he had installed himself. I boringly queried if this meant more gas use. His grin made it quite clear that this was completely beside the point. It was very cool and he had done it himself. And it did look snazzy.
The days ahead are tentatively filled with building another potato gun (I thoughtlessly threw out the first one after tripping over it for the 100th time) and pulling the stove out of the VW camper. It might also include another round of installing seats.
The boys also were chattering about the Maker Faire in San Mateo this weekend, where guys like the stars of “Mythbusters” stand in the crowd just to watch all the amazing, exploding, whirring, spinning, remote-controlled gizmos and robots you’d ever want to see, created by men and women who “blend science, technology, craft and art.” Now that’s good fun.
But even in quieter moments, these same kids are watching some oddly colored spider in its web by the porch light, or noting the cloud forms of the sunset. It reassures me that a goodly portion of video and Internet games haven’t left them oblivious to the wonders around them.
I find it particularly impressive because I did not have that sort of curiosity at their age. It took me several more decades, and the raising of children, to realize how interesting our world can be. I’m hoping in my next life to have some early aptitude for science and engineering. I don’t want to change the seats in my car, but I have come to appreciate a good fire-belching robot.